I Like Red Wing Boots. But What Happens When They AREN’T ‘Built To Last’?

Update, September 24, 2012: I changed the title to better reflect what is now going on with this article.  The original title was “Built To Last? What In The World Has Happened To Red Wing Boots?”

Update, March 14, 2012: I have completely changed my tune about Red Wing: as the comments below indicate, Red Wing immediately reached out to me and resoled my boots absolutely free of charge (even shipping).  The customer service rep explained that there was a recall on the particular sole due to a defect issue (that I never found out about) and I sort of fell through the cracks.  But Red Wing ultimately took care of me.

To thank Red Wing for the customer service that I had always counted on, I also purchased a brand new pair of Red Wing boots (style #2233).  As I have stated: when it comes to my feet, I want the best boots I can afford.  I learned when I was in the Army that if you can have quality anything, get a quality weapon and then get yourself some quality boots.

I will be editing this article substantially in the near future: but I wanted to immediately acknowledge Red Wing’s excellent treatment of one customer.

I’ve had a long relationship with Red Wing Boots.  Other than when I served in the military, I have had a pair of Red Wings in my closet since I was in high school.  I actually own three pairs of Red Wings as I speak:

But I’m not real happy about Red Wing these days.

The latest addition to my Red Wing flock was a complete fiasco.

I’ve been happy with the low quarters shoes on the right side of the picture; I’ve had them since 2006/07 and they’ve been great.

The pair in the middle are positively ancient; I bought them when I lived in Oregon in the 1980s and had them resoled this year (I have a complaint about that, too, and will talk about it later; but it’s minor compared to the remaining pair of Red Wing boots on the left side of the above picture).

There is no question that Red Wing used to be a shoe and boot company of premium quality.

The nutmeg boots that utterly failed about as much as a pair of boots could fail are Style #2406 (Nutmeg).  I note that they are still for sale at outlets such as CityShoesOnline as of February 13 – though I was told when I called customer service that they were NOT sold online.  He wasn’t interested in looking at my link to demonstrate otherwise.  I bought these boots in late 2006/early 07 as well because they were on sale and I thought steel toed boots might come in handy.  But I barely wore them and ended up storing them the exact same way and in the exact same place I’ve stored my other boots.

When it came time to have the black boots – again, that I’d had since the 1980s – re-soled – I dug out the Nutmeg Red Wings to wear on my hikes.

I wore them about a month.  And then one day I noticed this had happened:

Here’s a close-up:

I could provide more pictures, but I think it is rather obvious from these that the tread is virtually new.  They had very little wear on them.  But the soles just little fell apart.  It’s like they still looked brand new other than the fact that they were disintergrating.

When I picked up the boots I had resoled, I brought these Nutmegs with me (the Euclid store in Anaheim, California was also the store of purchse of the Nutmegs) and asked what Red Wing would do about it.  He said he couldn’t do anything about it but told me to contact Red Wing customer service.  He also said they could not be re-soled.

So I called customer service.  They told me only the stores could do anything.  But that they could be re-soled.  This frustrating exhange occurred following my sending three different emails to customer.service@redwingshoe.com and receiving not so much as a “go to hell” back from them.

Red Wing “customer service” used to be a lot better; and the deterioration of their customer service has matched the deterioration of the quality of their products.

The boots are obviously “out of warranty.”  I understand that.  Legally, Red Wing does not have to do anything.

But here’s the thing: I’ve got three other pair of shoes/boots that are FAR older than the Red Wings that fell apart – and which were stored FAR longer under identical conditions (in boxes which were in totes in an air-conditioned closet) – and have held up fine.  Here they are:

A little history on these:

The pair on the left is the oldest; they are Corcoran “jump boots” that I was authorized to wear with my dress greens as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army.  I bought them in 1983.  Unfortunately, I scuffed the toe of one boot badly enough that they were no longer dress uniform “worthy.”  And the sole of Corcoran jump boots is rather smooth and slick.  So I had an additional sole added in 1984.  And I have had them ever since.  They are still fine; the soles are still fine.

The pair in the middle are also rather ancient.  They are Browning insulated and waterpoof boots.  I bought them about 1988.  I wore those on all kinds of hiking/backpacking expeditions.  They are also still fine.  And the soles – while worn now – are still in decent shape.

The third pair on the right is a surprise.  They are Rockports, and I have had them since the late 1980s.  As ugly as the things are, they have lasted and lasted, and they are quite comfortable with my medical insole that doesn’t fit in most of my other footwear.

When I was at the Red Wing store, the manager felt bad enough about the boots to offer me free plastic heel clips that prolong heel life (they cost about a buck).  He put them in a bag that had this logo:

The serious question is: How “built to last”?

Do they last anywhere near as long as Corcoran?  As long as Browning?  As long as Rockport?  Not anymore, apparently.

Does Red Wing stand behind their products? Not anymore, they don’t.  Are they “built to last?”  Nope.

If you want “built to last,” you’d better look somewhere else.

Am I going to be investing any more of my money on top-dollar Red Wing products that are no longer anywhere NEAR the level of quality they need to be to justify their prices?  No.

It’s amazing.  I am seeing a marked deterioration in quality in nearly everything I buy these days.  Practically nothing is “built to last” anymore.

Btw, I mentioned I had a pair of Red Wing boots re-soled.  Guess what?  They had a one year warranty (which means you figure that’s the absolute minimum length of time they should last), and they managed to peter out just short of that period.  But having already had my previous experience with Red Wing “customer service,” I didn’t even bother to complain.

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52 Responses to “I Like Red Wing Boots. But What Happens When They AREN’T ‘Built To Last’?”

  1. The Dauntless Conservative Says:

    MichaelE; you’re out of uniform, soldier! Those shoes are not shined properly. You’ll be standing sentry guard from 0000 to 0400! Got it, soldier! ROFLMAO!!!

    ***
    I had a pair of Redwings back in the mid 90s too…best pair of boots I ever owned. I wore out the soles and had to send them to Richmond for resoles…not sure if they still do that…but I finally wore them out.

  2. Michael Eden Says:

    Dauntless,

    I can’t remember if I told the story about those Corcorans in my “rant.”

    I bought them as my dress uniform boots at Ft. Benning right after graduating jump school in 1983. But I rode a motorcycle back then, and managed to scar the toe of the left boot beyond repair. I was so mad! Had to buy ANOTHER pair of Corcorans – and then not repeat the same mistake!

    I used the old Corcorans as my off-duty footwear (which meant scarring that toe to no end with my motorcycle gear shifts) until the sole gave out and had them re-soled with a Vibrum sole rather than the slick leather sole Corcorans come with.

    I STILL put polish on those boots, but not nearly as often and NEVER with a spit shine!!! Those boots have a lot of mileage on them, believe me.

    And they’re still holding up fine. Unlike that pair of Red Wings I’m complaining about.

    Red Wing used to be GREAT. They had a fitting system and a width availability that guaranteed you to get a perfect fit. And the boots lasted forever. And the customer service was great.

    What in the world has happened to pretty much EVERYTHING???

  3. The Dauntless Conservative Says:

    …one word…China.

  4. Michael Clark Says:

    To D.C. – the word doesn’t fit in this case. The 2406 is built in the USA using leather from Red Wing’s own S.B. Foot Tanning Company. The triple stitch machines used to stitch the leather together are the same Puritan machines that have been in use since the early beginnings of the company.

    Michael, I am sorry to hear about your experience. As one of the web content specialists for Red Wing Shoes, I have set up Google Alerts to look for web sites that mention our brand and, yes, track counterfeits and illegal online sales of our boots.

    Your information has found the right eyes! First, thanks for providing the link to the online retailer, we are requesting they remove our boots from their site, as we have not authorized them or any other retail business to sell Red Wing work boots online.

    I shared your blog with our customer service team and our marketing team. I have been assured that if you send the boots into the customer service team, they will get resoled, free of charge.

    Here is the response from customer service:
    “The boots appear to be an older pair of 2406’s from 2001 or so. When they get this old the 2.0 soles do sometimes turn soft. When consumers send them back we do resole them at no charge and send the boots back with all new soles. We have no way of contacting this person as there is no contact information listed on his link. We can arrange for a pre-paid return label that can be sent out via email or regular mail too if needed.”

    To verify the build date, you can check the CoOL tab on the tongue of the boots, it should include the style number as well as a build date (and possibly other part and build numbers from our factory). It will be in a XX/XX format for month and year. If the build date was from 2000 or 2001, we may have run into a case of old dealer stock that actually softened from non-use, much like tires can do when stored away for long periods of time.

    Either way, please submit a new inquiry to customer service, care of Matt Streif, and allow us to repair them for you.

    Thanks for caring enough to post this.

    M Clark, Web Content Specialist, Red Wing Shoes
    Red Wing, MN

    P.S. the CoOL stands for “Country of Origin Label” and is included on every boot we build. It should be fairly easy to find Red Wing boots that are constructed right here in the USA if that is your priority. We also include this as a search option on our website. Our Red Wing plant alone builds over 25,000 pairs of boots each week.

  5. Michael Eden Says:

    Michael,

    That is very good news. Squeaky wheels really DO get grease!

    It’s too bad that the customer service man I spoke with wasn’t as helpful. Or the emails I sent that didn’t get answered (although I noticed that the link I provided in that email for a current online seller mysteriously turned up dead when I checked it just before publishing this – which indicates that somebody didn’t respond to me but they did go after the link).

    But I have ALWAYS had good support and quality from Red Wing, and that was part of what shocked me so much. I expected better from Red Wing because I had always HAD better from Red Wing.

    I’m one of those guys who believe in buying quality footwear. “Nothin’ but the best for my two favorite feet in the world.”

    As I said, I bought the boots in late 2006 or possibly early 2007. To provide more info, I had come into the store to buy socks – and while I was at that I went ahead and stepped on the Red Wing fitting device to try on a couple of boots without really intending to buy a pair that day. When I told the manager my size, he told me that he had a pair in my size available at a great deal. And I bought them. The manager did not tell me anything about “old stock” or “2.0 soles” that could fall apart.

    I stored them after not having worn them very much – exactly as I stored several other pairs of boots. Without knowing anything about a sole that could dissolve because I’d never had that happen before.

    They were the first Red Wings that ever failed me. But boy did they ever fail!!!

    I will surely be in contact with Matt Streif.

    I don’t delete articles, but if I get the service you indicate, I will change the title to reflect the change in service and will provide an update at the beginning of the article to describe what happened.

  6. Michael Eden Says:

    Dauntless,

    You got the word from Michael Clark of Redwing.

    The boots DO clearly say, “Made in USA.”

    The way I shop, I think in terms of getting what I pay for. Sometimes “cheap” is adequate; sometimes it isn’t.

    I’ve bought a great many tools from Harbor Freight – which is another way of saying I’ve bought a great many tools from China. If I’m buying something like a vice grip wrench, I don’t want something from China; if I’m buying a hammer, China’s fine.

    When it comes to my feet, “China” isn’t fine as a general rule.

  7. The Dauntless Conservative Says:

    Ok, then maybe I should have asked, are ALL Red Wing shoes and boots made in USA?

  8. Michael Eden Says:

    That’s a good question, Dauntless.

    I CAN tell you that all the Red Wings I’ve ever bought have had the “Made in USA” label. I know, because I LOOK for that label!!!

  9. The Dauntless Conservative Says:

    I look at labels too….maybe I need to increase my dosage of omega-3, ya think? lol!

  10. Michael Eden Says:

    Dauntless,

    Apparently, however, there ARE labels we shouldn’t waste too much of our time reading:

    http://www.forbes.com/2011/02/23/dumbest-warning-labels-entrepreneurs-sales-marketing-warning-labels_slide.html?partner=msnbc

  11. Michael Clark Says:

    Not to be a haunt on your pages, but I wanted to check back in. I heard from Matt in Customer Service and it sounds like you are working on a solution – glad I could help you get your situation resolved.

    The problem is less about the sole and more about the dormant time the shoes spent in the backroom as stock…you bought them new, but if the rubber had sat for 5+ years (if our suspicions are correct), that is quite enough time for them to degrade before you put them on for the first time.

    And Dauntless – we do make shoes in China. But over 60% of the shoes we sell are made in the USA, worldwide, for the Red Wing Shoes brand. Currently 100% of our Heritage products are made in the USA, most of them here in the Red Wing factory. We also have two plants, located in Potosi, Missouri and in Danville, Kentucky that make thousands of boots every day. Not to mention our two distribution centers and hundreds of retail stores.

    Unlike many of our competitors, we make it very easy to search for USA-made products on our website. With less than 2% of the total shoes sold in this country being made in the USA, our boots make up a significant chunk of that 2%.

    Of possible interest – the tides may be changing soon:

    Insourcing: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/01/11/everything-you-need-know-about-insourcing

    The Economist – Moving Back to America: http://www.economist.com/node/18682182

    Thanks and I hope the new soles serve you for many years!

  12. Michael Eden Says:

    Michael,

    I contacted Red Wing customer service and received a response from Matt Streif. He told me to send them in and gave me the address.

    That made me happy enough that I went ahead and purchased another pair of Red Wing boots (style #2233). I figured they’d be 2-3 weeks getting back to me and I wanted a pair before then; plus it was my way of appreciating good customer service. I’ll also be able to give both boots every other day off, of course.

    When you spend $200 and up for a pair of boots when you can go to Big 5 and buy a pair of boots for $20 in their continual sales, you get demanding.

    I’m glad you came through: I’ve got a wide foot with a relatively narrow heel, which means that I get a little bit of slippage in the heel. And if I have any soft foamy padding like so many shoes have, I tend to tear it up. I want LEATHER and ONLY leather. And there just aren’t that many boots out there – outside of cowboy boots – that have simple but durable leather backs. Add to that I need boots in widths and add to that I like 8″ boots (I live in rattlesnake country) and I’m very happy to have Red Wing back in my good graces.

    When I get the boots back (as Ronnie said, “Trust, but verify”), I’ll be making a dramatic change to this article to proclaim the level of service I received after my “squeaking.”

    I’m okay with China. My pants are made in China. My shirts are made in China. But when it comes to my boots, I prefer to have Yankee Doodle Dandee making them under Uncle Sam’s watchful eagle eyes.

    You mentioned the “insourcing” and cited a White House article. What is interesting is that the “resurgance” of domestic manufacturing is OVERWHELMINGLY due to pro-business (i.e. “Republican” states as exemplified by their right to work policies:

    http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv23n1/holmes.pdf

    http://www.nilrr.org/files/NILRR%20FACT%20SHEET%20RTW%20States%20Benefit%202011.pdf

    It’s too bad Obama is fighting that by insisting on a hard-core union agenda to keep jobs overseas.

    Thanks for the good customer service, Michael. Good luck in your future web monitoring!

  13. scott Says:

    i was told by the original sale clerk that my boots would handle extreme wear and tear, or redwing would fix or replace them. ive had mine for a year and a month i dont use them for anything more extreme than my job (overnight manager of a stop and shop) 1year 1 month later the leather is all stretched out. the gap for laces originally 2 inches now less than 1 almost completely closed. i have tearing on the inside lining. i just got home from the warwick store sale rep said they couldnt do anything for the stretching, they can repair the inside for 50$. my girlfriend wore a pair of brahma (walmart brand) 27$ 2 1/2 years they would have been like new with a new sole

  14. Michael Eden Says:

    Scott,

    For the record, I had intended to alter this article to state what I believe I stated in a comment: that Redwing very much came through for me in the end.

    I bought a brand new pair of Redwing boots after Redwing responded to this very article by resoling the damaged boots for me.

    Your tactic in pointing out that an “inferior” brand of boots outlasted the Redwings is, of course, what I was getting at in this article. Even the best product has a certain “failure rate” where something for some reason goes wrong, and I was calling on Redwing to honor its brand and reputation by standing behind its product. Which they DID in my case.

    I’m not sure about your individual situation based on your description (i.e., I can’t visualize the problem with the boots). But let me say this as a “for instance” to illustrate a point: I have a wide foot but a narrow heel. If I buy any boots that have soft cushy material, I tear it out at the heel as my narrow heel slightly goes up and down. In my case, I’ve learned to always buy LEATHER boots that have no foamy material inside. I wear right through foamy padding, but I don’t wear through leather. Is it possible you have a foot that might be better off in a more durable design of boot?

    I say that knowing full well that, yes, Redwing makes boots that have foamy cushioning, just like they make boots with just leather. I only buy boots that are all leather now because they wear better for me.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    I would have to agree that the customer service at Red Wing has been in decline for quite a while. I purchased a pair of Hawthorne Round Toe that for whatever reason did not fit properly. Contacted Red Wing and was told that there is nothing they could do for me. Three generations of Red Wing customers and this is what I got. Going to purchase everthing at REI. At least if there is any problem, they will take care of the customer…

  16. Michael Eden Says:

    Anonymous,

    Red Wing took care of me very well WHEN I MADE MY COMPLAINT PUBLIC.

    I actually meant to update this article to reflect that change of tone on my part and frankly got sidetracked and forgot.

    There is no question that businesses that that are a) hungry for business and b) tout the quality of their products have a tendency to stand behind their products in ways that seem almost crazy compared to garden variety businesses. There is also no question that businesses tend to become complacent when they become successful. And customers who became accostomed to that high level of service in the past are the most frustrated with the “change” that ensues.

    Red Wing IS still proud enough of its reputation that they wanted to make me a satisfied customer when I took my complaint public.

    I hope they “get it right” as they truly build a great boot and are particularly great for feet that are harder to fit like mine.

  17. Crosscut Says:

    Perhaps I missed it but what was the actual build date?

  18. Michael Eden Says:

    Crosscut,

    I’m afraid I don’t know who you’re addressing.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    im done with redwing . first pair lasted about seven months. received another pair. for christmas 2011 and they are no good. im not trying to bash redwing im just really disapointed. both pair were 875

  20. deb Says:

    husband has bought two pair of red wings since 2008, both pair fell apart! first pair the sole got soft and gummy, the second pair the sole is falling off.both pair the leather is still good and the thread on the sole is good.made in china. china can’t get baby food right what makeyou think they care about your feet. they killed a couple dogs with their dog food. what makes you think about your feet. no more red wings for him.

  21. Michael Eden Says:

    I don’t know, Anonymous and deb, you might be right.

    The pair I bought last February? Four of the eyelits have failed; the laces have worn right through the metal eyelits.I’ve got to bypass them in order to not start tearing through the leather with my laces (which would ruin the boots). I’ve never had that happen before, and it happened four times on one pair of boots.

    I like Red Wing boots; been buying them for years. I’ve always liked the way they can size up a foot and fit a boot to it well.

    I’m not going to know what to do next time.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    So Michael, how do I go about getting my husbands boots repaired by redwing at their cost? He’s been a faithful coustomer for 30+ years it sure would be nice if they would hold up there reputation and save me the trouble of finding him a new place to find him work boots.

  23. deb Says:

    So Michael, how do I go about getting redwing to repair my husbands boot, at their cost? It sure would be nice since they are still in good shape except for the soles. It would also save us the trouble of finding another company to buy his boots from.

  24. Michael Eden Says:

    Anonymous,

    That’s a good question.

    I tried to deal with customer service and was basically told to get lost. And then I got mad and set out to document my complaint for the world to see. And Red Wing contacted me with the offer they should have given me when I talked to customer service.

    I don’t know to what extent Red Wing is to blame. The whole world is going to hell all around us, after all. I just want to get the quality I believe I’m paying for if I’m going to pay the kind of money that Red Wing wants for its product.

  25. Sal astuto Says:

    Just curious where you guys are buying your boots? Is it a redwing store ? Or a army navy type of store that is a authorized reseller? I live in long island new York and we have 4 local red wing stores within 50 miles and I have never had a problem with getting good customer service. I own 6 pairs 2 4425’s a pair of 2412’s , 2 pair of 406’s And last but not least 414’s. I get a generous allowance from my employer. My dealer sends me a post card two times a year for tune ups. I had a problem with my 414 and they resoled them with different vibram soles for free. I rotate my boots depending on my task and daily. I wear a pair of 406’s as my personal use everyday boot and my other pair are 5 years old and they got retired to blacktop use. I refuse to hammer my other boots when I am running a paving crew. Bottom line is life is too short to wear uncomfortable boots 12 plus hours a day. Take care of your red wings and they will take care of you.

  26. Michael Eden Says:

    Sal astuto,

    I appreciate your experience.

    I would agree that the Red Wing store is the best place to buy Red Wings. Why? Because many “authorized distributors” simply don’t have the sizes (especially in wide widths). In my case, I bought a half size bigger than I should have in order to get the “EEE” width that many Red Wing stores would have had. And I paid the exact same price that I would have paid at a Red Wing store to not have the sizes I needed.

    I can’t compete with you in terms of Red Wing ownership, but I currently have four pairs of Red Wings. Which is probably more pairs of one manufacturer’s shoes than most (at least most guys) have.

    In my own case, I would have agreed with you a couple of years ago. But this very article stemmed from my getting told what to go do with my Red Wing boots when I called customer service. When they basically told me to drop dead, I wrote this article. And Red Wing contacted me and offered to make it right. And I’m glad they DID make it right. But it clearly took a public forum to make that happen in that case.

    I had a VERY GOOD experience with a Red Wing dealer in San Bernadino (at 1460 E Highland Ave). I brought in the pair of boots I bought last year because several of the eyelits had worn right through to the leather and clearly needed to be replaced. I’m not sure why, but the Red Wing guy didn’t really want to send my boots to Minnesota. Instead, he offered to pay the tab if I took them to a guy who could get the job done much more quickly. He got the job done and the Red Wing guy wrote me a check for that amount.

    Now, here’s the down side to that: the shoe repair man told me that every single eyelit had been improperly installed and he needed to replace them all. He showed me the back of the eyelits, where many of the “teeth” that secured them to the leather were not attached into the leather.

    Okay, so how do I understand that? Do I understand it as inferior workmanship on a product that ought to be better? Or do I view it as good customer service.

    I viewed it as good customer service. Excellent service, in fact.

    I would have bought another pair of boots from Red Wing as a token of appreciation, but they didn’t have the style that I wanted (I literally would have had to buy the same pair that I bought last time and where’s the fun in that?).

    The thing I still most appreciate about Red Wing is that they usually have the boot to fit your foot even if your feet are “weird” like mine kind of are.

    Years back, Sony was THE quality name in music. But some time (late 80s?) they began a strategy to milk their reputation by selling less expensive equipment under their Sony name. Of course, at first it worked great as lots of people bought Sony because now they could afford it. But it didn’t take long for their reputation as a quality manufacturer to go down the tubes. And they have just been an also-run company ever since.

    Red Wings have a reputation – at least in my mind – of outstanding quality and outstanding service. I want them to keep going by “the old ways” of doing business. And if they do that, guys like you and I will keep coming back.

  27. Michael Eden Says:

    I had something happen this week that really bothered me about my Red Wing boots.

    I’ve developed a couple of foot problems over the course of this past year, and was prescribed an orthotic by my podiatrist. I was told to bring in my boots for the first visit – and when my orthotist saw the Red Wings, he said they were THE worst possible boots for my condition. And he demonstrated how they have virtually ZERO mid-arch support.

    In point of fact, NONE of the three pairs of Red Wing boots I have turns out to have any mid-arch support.

    It wasn’t just Red Wings. I tried several other boots recently, such as Justin, and they didn’t have much arch support, either.

    Here’s my theory: arch supports really came into vogue due to the advanced running shoes. And the features have entered other footwear as well. Certainly, many of the less expensive “hiking boots” that are based on tennis shoes rather than “boots” have excellent mid-arch support. But somehow it just never caught on with boots (at least not yet).

    The orthotist advised me to go to Big 5 and buy a pair of Hi Techs. You can buy these things on one of Big 5’s constant sales for $30. You know, versus $199 for a pair of Red Wings.

    Anyway, here I am with a couple of pairs of $200 Red Wing boots that I am now being told WEREN’T good for my feet and which I really shouldn’t be wearing. When I thought I’d been giving my feet love by getting good boots.

    Kind of deflated about that…

  28. Anonymous Says:

    Yeah, that’s unfortunate Michael. I know a friend who has flat feet as well. They need their insoles to be customized, no matter how nice the shoe/boot is. I’m pretty sure if you just place your insoles in the redwings, you’ll be fine. God bless.

  29. Michael Eden Says:

    Thank you, Anonymous.

    The Red Wing boots that have absolutely zero arch support are #2233.

    I ought to also mention, in Red Wing’s defense, that the pair of boots that they resoled (the one’s with the bad sole featured in the article) DO have arch support, according to the orthotist.

    So it is not right to say “Red Wing boots have no arch support.” It is only right to say Red Wing boots style #2233 have no arch support.”

    What the orthotist said was that the Red Wing #2233s are of no use to me; that they are the worst possible boot for my foot. He said that for an orthotic to work the best, it is best to start with a pair of boots that actually HAVE a good arch support and the two will complement one another.

    I bought a pair of “Outdoor Gear” boots at Big 5 for $45 on one of their sales that are always going on. The orthotist said it had excellent arch support and the orthotic fits quite well in it.

    But as to the Red Wing #2233 boots, why make a boot with absolutely no arch support? I don’t understand that.

    The orthotist didn’t say WHY I developed all the foot problems I suddenly developed over the last year. But the foot problems began when I started wearing these boots. And I think the complete absence of any arch support for long walks on a foot that NEEDED arch support is what made my feet start going crazy.

    And I’m back to wondering why I’m paying $200 for something when I could literally pay $45 and have a much better boot for my foot?

  30. Mark Says:

    I have been wearing Red Wing boots for over thirty years. The last good style I used were the 956’s I believe, it has been 15 years since I bought them. Had four pair in rotation since I was in the welding business. Those boot were the toughest things I ever wore. I am down to my last pair that has been resoled twice. They are getting thin everwhere and the stiching is finally coming apart. Wish I could find that great boot again. Even today the inside of that boot smells like glove leather. Now the last three pair’s of boot I bought from Red Wing were the 996 the 8111 and the 606. Can’t wear them, they feel like i’m walking with bricks on my feet, just not comfortable. Wishing they would bring back that great boot. I don’t mind paying good money for a great product but something has changed and not for the good.

  31. Michael Eden Says:

    Mark,

    Your story is mine. I had outstanding success with Red Wings. And then something changed.

    I am still able to wear the pair that they resoled (after the soles literally collapsed with virtually no wear). But the pair I bought to thank them for resoling is basically useless to me as they have absolutely ZERO arch support.

    Red Wing appears to be resting on its past greatness rather than trying to continue making great boots.

  32. Andrew Says:

    I’ve worn 2233’s for years, and their simplicity is what makes them so comfortable for me. They don’t have a removable insole with a giant hump for an arch support, but they do take the form of your feet and provide just the right amount of support that a foot requires. One of Red Wings best boots.

  33. Michael Eden Says:

    Andrew,

    I’m glad you like your 2233s.

    But the fact of the matter is that an orthotist who makes orthotics declared that they have ZERO arch support, none whatsoever, and that they are the worst boots imaginable for somebody who needs an orthotic.

    And that boots that cost a fraction in comparison would be far superior.

    Like I said, that bothered me.

  34. Charles Carwile Says:

    I read somewhere above red wing does not make boots in china,my 4613 Bemidji Chukka says made in chine right on the tounge also does my 6 inch 950’s .I contacted them via email about where to send them for repairs.The 4613’s the toe rubber is peeling away from the leather.

  35. alfred Says:

    I’ve worn Red Wing 9 inch logger boots for years but this last pair that I bought 2 years ago have been nothing but pain and trouble for me. I always bought 699s but they’ve been discontinued so I got the 218s. Firstly the leather was way too stiff for anyone’s business even in a smoke jumper boot and never actually broke in.
    After a while I was developing chronic numbness in my toes and had to start wearing them half laced which totally defeats the purpose of a lace up boot. The killer for me though was that the toe box was lined with some kind of crappy mid grain leather that fell apart and turned into a cheese grater for my toes. After putting up with a painful open wound on my foot for about 6 months, I said $cr3w it and bought a pair of Wesco Jobmasters. No more Red Wings for this boy. Loyal Lifelong Customers -1.

  36. Michael Eden Says:

    Alfred,

    I’m sorry to hear about all the troubles you’ve had.

    In my own case, after my prosthetician made me a custom orthotic and told me DO NOT WEAR THAT PAIR OF REDWING BOOTS because they’ve got zero arch support, I’ve been doing dandy in the considerably cheaper “Big 5″ boots that he recommended as having good arch support. And they’ve actually lasted rather well.

    I have no way of knowing whether wearing boots that didn’t have sufficient arch support contributed to my podiatry issues, but I am nevertheless still dumbfounded that Red Wing would make $200 boots that don’t have the kind of good arch support that $40 boots have. It just leaves you scratching your head.

  37. Mike S. Says:

    I’ve been wearing Red Wing 2406’s for 8 years working in an aluminum mill. Only time I’ve had them replaced was if we had an oil spill and they got soaked through with rolling oil which irritates your skin. They’re the most comfortable boot I’ve worn…I wear them for 12 hour shifts, 7 day stretches. Feet feel great. I swear by my Red Wings.

  38. Michael Eden Says:

    Mike S.,

    I’m glad you’ve had good experiences with your Red Wings – and I’m glad you wrote about it here.

    Your view had always been mine until I started to have some of the foot issues I just all at once discovered.

  39. Anonymous Says:

    The numerous podiatrist in my area suggest the redwing shoes, saying the are the best in the market for your feet and they come in different widths and last which is great for fitting orthotics. I do not know how long you had your 2233, maybe the support was broken down in them. Lets face it and think about it, if you are on your feet all day everyday its going to wear on your boots. With RedWings many times the outside will be great still but the inside will be broken down. Or perhaps your feet have changed over the years, which is common as you age. Anyway the podiatrist around me love the old style of redwing such as the 953, 952, 2245, 2233, 202, 402……..

    RedWings make a great quality boot that is comfortable and durable, one of the best boots on the market. There are many different styles for different types of work and not everyone likes the same style. Depending on the type of work you do and what need your feet have make a huge difference in what style works best for a particular person. Most stores that are Red Wing retailers custom measure and fit your foot. Having the correct size is of upmost importance. It dictates the comfort and durabiltiy of the boot. If you deal with these stores they usually have great customer service and if there is a problem they talk to RedWing for you.

    It is unforunate that some of you have had bad experiences. If you have not went into a store and dealt with a professional then try that before you swear off RedWIngs. They really are the best around. In my experience I suggest staying with the USA made ones the others are comfortable but not as durable.

    Redwing has cracked down on returns but that is because people abuse the system. But if it is a defect with the boot they always stand behind it. They can’t promise that they will never have a defect because no one can.

    If you go to a RedWIng retailer who is a small buisness or mom/pop type store then you will most likely have great service. Because they usually have old fashion values. Many people go online or to chains. These places do so much buisness that your order doesn’t really matter.

    Please try these tips make an educated decision and see what you think of redwings then.

  40. Michael Eden Says:

    The numerous podiatrist in my area suggest the redwing shoes

    Anonymous,

    Here’s my question for you:

    Why have you gone to every single podiatrist in your area??? The only reason you would do so is if you believed that every single one you’d seen was incompetent – and that therefore you needed to keep seeing the next one, and then the next, to actually give you relief.

    No one would go to “numerous podiatrists” otherwise.

    The ONE podiatrist I went to said the Redwing boots I had in my hand were THE WORST I could possibly have. HE SHOWED ME WHY by bending the boot to show it’s complete lack of arch support versus the pair of boots he brought in to show me what solid arch support looks like.

    So while you went to “numerous podiatrists” and clearly never found one who could help you, I went to ONE who solved my problem and showed me how to help solve my own problem in the future.

    With respect, I trust in my one podiatrist who resolved my problem over your “numerous podiatrists” who couldn’t help you, thereby forcing you to keep seeing more and more podiatrists.

    Redwing needs to make boots that have ARCH SUPPORT. The pair I cited did NOT. Other pairs I looked at in the store DID NOT.

  41. Anonymous Says:

    Michael,

    What’s with all THE random CAPITALIZATION?

    Red Wing makes several optional insoles with arch support. I have a pair in my 875s and they’re great.

  42. Michael Eden Says:

    Anonymous,

    So what is it about my capitalizing that seems “random” to you??? I re-read what you are commenting on and the only thing that strikes me as “random” is that you are one of those drive-by types who can personalize your criticism without bothering to feel that you need to identify yourself – making your post not much more than a “random drive-by attack.”

    You feel that Red Wing making several optional insoles with arch support is superior to the manufacturers that build their boots with arch support in mind right from the outset, do you??? You feel that some after-the-thought arch support is superior to an integrated system with the entire boot in mind, soles and all, do you???

    I DON’T (don’t mind my caps because they must be “random”).

    And I DON’T believe that a pair of INSOLES are going to make the boots I bought ((style #2233) suddenly become great arch-support boots. NOR do I find anywhere from Red Wing where I’m told, “Hey, if you want to have ‘arch support’ you’d better buy these after-the-fact insoles because otherwise you won’t have ANY arch support at all” warning.

    In point of fact, your “advice” actually flies in the face of what my experienced medical PROFESSIONAL told me (I know, I’m being “random” again emphasizing that the man who told me the following was an orthotist with thirty years’ experience). I actually brought those 2233 boots with me to be fitted for a custom-made orthotic (which puts your “arch support” to shame, I hope you understand). He looked at them and told me that they were the WORST boots I could possibly have. He told me to go buy boots that had good arch support. And your insoles just won’t cut it BECAUSE HOW THE HELL COULD I EVEN WEAR YOUR INSOLES WITH THE ORTHOTIC ANYWAY???

    Again, he showed me how to tell a good boot for arch support. He showed me how to twist the boot at the arch. A good boot will resist that twisting and be firm and stable; the 2233 boots just twisted something fierce. And no little insole was going to correct that deficiency.

    I don’t know if you’re a Red Wing employee lurking or just a big time fan of Red Wing boots, but knock it off with trying to undermine this post with your personal dismissal and stick to the facts. And then DEAL with the fact that “arch support” and “Red Wing” are ANYTHING BUT synonymous when the best your brand can come up with is an “optional insoles with arch support.”

    Because I can buy a dirt cheap pair of boots from Wal-Mart and get your stupid “optional insoles.” And I don’t expect that when I spend the kind of money to buy Red Wing boots.

    If the best Red Wing can come up with is some silly insole, they’ve got even bigger problems than I thought they had.

  43. Anonymous Says:

    34 year old boots get over yourself

  44. Michael Eden Says:

    Anonymous,

    You’re pretty damned amazing, you hypocrite.

    I wrote a detailed account of my DOCUMENTED ISSUES with Red Wing boots.

    But you are such a malignant narcissist that you literally think that you don’t need ANYTHING to put somebody else’s experience down. All you apparently need is your giant ego.

    Get lost. I don’t waste more time than necessary on drive-by losers who don’t have either the intellect or the honesty to offer a meaningful response.

  45. Phillip Says:

    I’m having the same problem with the 2408 model Red Wings – essentially the same as yours only they are an 8″ lace up. I’ve been wearing this style for about ten year now. The first pair lasted many, many years before they just wore out from use and abuse. The second pair lasted about two years until the soles wore out similarly to yours but the tread was mostly gone so I just declared them ‘worn out’ and stashed them in the back of the closet. The third pair lasted about a year before the sole began disintegrating like shown in your pictures and there was still a bit of tread left. I had them sent off to Red Wing for a replacement sole. The replacement sole lasted about six months of light use before it too started disintegrating – this time with a lot of tread left.

    Right now I’m beginning what seems to be a drawn out process of obtaining a credit from Red Wing. First, I talked to the dealer where I purchased the boots and his best offer was to send them back to Red Wing and charge me another $90 for a replacement sole. The second time I went back to talk with him he reluctantly agreed to meet me halfway on the price but again balked when I told him I wanted that credit applied to the older pair which had never been re-soled. He thought I was playing a trick on him but really I’m just wanting to get a credit for a defective product. They also compromised the leather when installing the replacement sole, so I wanted to re-sole the boots that hadn’t been worked on before.

    Anyway, now I’ve been in contact with Red Wing customer service and am now seeking a credit for the complete cost of the original sole replacement. I feel that there is a defect in the sole causing them to wear out too early and I shouldn’t put any more good money into Red Wing products.

    In the meantime I’ve gone and purchased a pair of Chippewa insulated logger boots that have been absolutely wonderful so far.

  46. Michael Eden Says:

    Phillip,

    Well, YOU’RE not telling me that it’s all in my head and to “get over myself,” which is good!

    I am now buying different boots which are based on the running shoe design and which 1) have a superior arch support to ANYTHING I ever bought from Red Wing and 2) are inexpensive compared to Red Wing. If these boots last just six months, they MORE than pay for themselves relative to the cost of buying a pair of Red Wings even when you include the resole factor. And so far, the boots I’m buying are lasting eight months and beyond. So they’re more comfortable, give me better support, and are a better value.

    If I’m going to pay Red Wing money for boots, they HAVE to have outstanding arch support and they HAVE to last long enough to pay for themselves. Because otherwise I’m buying them for the label, and I DON’T buy clothes or shoes or anything else based on the “coolness” of a stupid label.

    I am brand loyal only to brands that genuinely merit loyalty. And after over twenty years of being a Red Wing guy, I no longer view them as being worthy of my loyalty. Not when my orthotist tells me that my Red Wings have the worst arch support he’s ever seen and tells me to go to Big 5 and buy a pair of Hi-Tecs instead because these boots I can buy for $30 have ARCH SUPPORT.

  47. Bubba Hab Says:

    WOW, I don’t even know where to start. But with holding $400 bucks worth of boots in my hands and their TOAST really upsets me!

  48. Michael Eden Says:

    Bubba Hab,

    I know how you feel. It’s basically happened to me TWICE with Red Wings.

    The first time, I had a pair of boots whose soles simply crumbled away. And when I called customer service the rep was rude and unprofessional.

    My article caused them to contact me and help me out. I was actually very happy they did that (even though it was only when I started shouting on the internet that they bothered to listen).

    But anyway, I bought a new pair of boots just to stay loyal as a customer.

    And I developed foot problems. It wasn’t because I had the wrong size boot; it was because the boots had genuinely crappy arch support. The professional orthotist the orthopedic surgeon scheduled me to see – who had been working in the field for thirty years – told me the Red Wing boots I’d bought basically had about the worst arch support he had ever seen.

    I mean, say what? What should I do with these new boots? Throw them away. They’re murder for your feet.

    I had never minded paying top dollar for my boots. Not that I’m rich, but I’ve always believed my feet are important things and worth taking good care of. All I ask in return is for my expensive boots to truly be better than what I could buy for $40 at Big 5. And right now that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

  49. Chris Says:

    My recent boots were bought in 2013. I first started wearing these in late june of 2014. In early August I noticed that the rubber already started to fall apart at the heal. I only used these shoes for an indoor job site for about one week. I changed to sneakers, because the shoes were new and were going through a ‘breaking in period’ and I was constantly on my feet, and sneakers seemed to help ease the pain. I know after time when the leather softens, they are the most comfortable pair of boots to wear on a job site. I owned an identical pair for almost 6 years straight, daily with no issues, just normal wear set in. This is my 4th pair. I went to wear these again today (just over 45 days from first use), and noticed that the soles have started to desintagrate, exposing the soft foam undersole. Out of my last two boot pairs bought in 7 years, this is almost same occurance of defect, and I’ll never buy another redwing pair of shoes again. I’m a long time user of these shoes, and I’de be willing to bet in 2008-2010 (based on economic necessity), a manufacturing change occured. The leather is great, by my generic pairs of sneakers outlasted the soles of my newest redwing boots.

  50. Michael Eden Says:

    Chris,

    It sounds like you’re like me. You bought Red Wings for years. But something has happened there.

    In my case I wanted shoes that “custom fit” my feet. And in the past I found that Red Wings seemed to offer the best value for boots that were available in the widths that I wanted. I also liked to have LEATHER rather than foam, and I’d look at other boots and end up coming back to Red Wing which had what I was looking for.

    I went through about a 20-year period where Red Wings were the only boots I wore. And that was because they lasted and offered value for what I was paying.

    For me, it was mostly the realization that those boots that I wanted didn’t have any damn arch support. To hear a guy whose been a professional orthotist for 20+ years say these were the worst boots for arch support he’d ever seen was jaw-dropping for me. I was like, what do you mean? These are $200 boots!!! And I didn’t pick them up on sale.

    He picked up my Red Wings and twisted at the sole and the whole boot turned in his hand; and then he showed me how a quality pair of shoes/boots with arch support stays rigid and solid. Unlike the Red Wings I suddenly found myself stuck with.

    The orthotist all but told me that my wearing those Red Wings had CAUSED some of my serious foot problems as I’d gone YEARS without arch support when I’d really seriously needed it.

    I’ve never worn those boots since. And then I hear the orthotist tell me I’d be better off going to Big 5 and buying the H-Tech boots that sell for like one-sixth the price of what I’d paid for the Red Wings.

    I expect BETTER for the kind of damn money Red Wing wants for their boots.

    And, yeah, the Hi-Techs have felt FAR better in terms of offering support.

    I told my story of my boots that disintegrated at the sole. Red Wing said it was basically a short period design flaw with electrical soles. But maybe not.

    There comes a point in marketing when a company begins to live on its laurels and profit from its having been a brand with a reputation for quality. Sony did that decades back: they’d been the best or one of the best, but they started peddling crap with their brand name on it and people bought it because it was Sony and it had to be quality and wow what a good deal. But that doesn’t last for very long as people buy the product and it FAILS and over time the “quality” part of the “quality brand” goes away.

    I don’t know what Red Wing’s issue is. I just know that I truly felt seriously let down when I was watching that orthotist call my $200 Red Wing boots godawful crap.

  51. The Dauntless Conservative Says:

    MichaelE; you might want to consider a podiatrist. For me, a chiropractor I was once seeing, determined that I had fallen arches in one of my feet. So, he referred me to a type of specialist (not a doctor) that can fit me with special orthotics to fit inside my shoes. The chiropractor explained that if you are over 40 or so, there is a good chance you could have one or both feet having fallen arches…some more pronounced than others. Fallen arches, from one or both feet will throw your spine, hip, legs out of alignment as you walk or stand or similar movements. Unless treated, overtime, you could develop one or a multitude of back, hip, sore legs and feet issues as you age. Anyway, suggested I get 3 different sets of orthotic arch supports for different shoes and very in thickness. A thin set for dress shoes or similar, a medium thickness for some athletic shoes and boots depending on sock thickness that is worn. I usually wear the thin set in my hunting/work type boots and an ultra thick set to wear 30 minutes a day in the house or wear around the house. I bought a pair of athletic type shoes just to wear in the house with the ultra thick inserts. Almost all shoes are made in China and they rarely have any good arch support. That is a production shortcut they make to save cost.

    ******
    Why Red WIng quality has sunk as with many other items we buy? Why some much manufacturing has move to China over the years? Thanks to the egregious business hating leftists/statists democrats and some gutless republicans too, (I refuse to call them liberal because there is nothing liberal about them in the classical liberal sense and liberal comes from the root word, “liberty”; Statism and liberalism are technically the opposite of one another in the classical sense from the Enlightenment that influence much of our founders thinking. I call them what they really are; no sugar coating them.) we have:

    1. A grossly inflated dollar thanks to the Federal Reserve ( a private bank in disguise as a Federal entity) and Congress’ deficit spending and not paying off debts in a timely manner. In other words, it takes many dollars to buy, for example, a British pound or Swiss franc. As the dollar has weaken over time, it takes more and more to buy goods and services overseas. “The Creature from Jekyll Island” exposes the Fed.

    https://archive.org/details/CreatureFromJekyllIslandByG.Edward-G.EdwardGriffin

    2. An onerous Federal tax code that is so hostile to the business world as well as the citizenry. I know, I used to work in the tax profession. The US has the highest corporate tax rate in the world.

    http://www.kpmg.com/global/en/services/tax/tax-tools-and-resources/pages/corporate-tax-rates-table.aspx

    3. And business and EPA regulations that are so burdensome, especially with this egregious clown in the WH and administration, to the point it almost chokes a business to death.

    Until we substantially reverse these three, we will continue to sink economically.

  52. Michael Eden Says:

    The Dauntless Conservative,

    Thanks for your concern and your advice.

    I’ve been talking about an “orthotist.” But I should backtrack slightly and mention that I saw my orthotist after seeing an orthopedic who referred me to a podiatrist who referred me to the orthotist. In other words, the ortho/podiatry clinic diagnosed my conditions and they sent me to the orthotist to make my orthotic.

    So, yeah, I agree with you completely. And I followed your advice in advance.

    I actually DO have your so-called “fallen arches.” My arch – which USED to be normal – is now flat as a sasquatch’s. I also have a hammer toe and a bunion and a condition on my right toe – the name of which eludes me at the moment – that caused my right toe to jut slightly inward rather than pointing straight ahead. And that last condition gives me a slightly off-balance sensation. My orthotic helps with all of them. As an example, it helps with the hammer toe by having a small “bump” in the center of the orthotic which causes a pressure that straightens my toes.

    A good orthotic is a lifesaver for anyone with foot problems who has to be or wants to be on their feet a lot.

    The remainder of your comment – your analysis of outsourcing, regulatory policy and taxes – is of course spot-on. Although personally, I think Red Wing COULD have continued as an excellent brand if they had truly wanted to.

    Sometimes, the management of a business decides to “grow and expand” and they make that their priority. And then they take all the short cuts to make that priority happen as quickly as possible.

    You and I both know how companies get big and want to get bigger and get in bed with the government. And how secular-humanist progressive crony capitalists – there! I DIDN’T say “liberal” as I understand and agree with your views about “classical liberalism” versus “modern so-called liberalism” – tie government to business from inside government even as they work from within business to tie business to government. The result is good for the crony capitalist business as the state imposes taxes and regulations that serve to keep other businesses from starting and its good for the bureaucrats in power as they get to benefit from deciding who wins and who loses and maintain their power.

    The only people it’s bad for are EVERYONE ELSE who gets shut out of the economy and on top of that has to pay more for everything because competition reduces prices but there IS no competition because Democrats mucked up our free market system.

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